Intuitive Eating can be a challenging process, especially in the beginning. What if you never crave vegetables? How can you stop feeling guilty after eating sweets? How do you know if you are honoring your hunger? These are questions that we have all contemplated – you are not alone! Read on for my answers and tips to help you during your Intuitive Eating journey.
I’ve been getting a lot of great questions on my Instagram page about Intuitive Eating that I wanted to share with everyone. Intuitive Eating is the opposite of a diet (in so many ways!) – where diets are easy at first, due to the structure and rules, they become harder as time goes on. Intuitive Eating, on the other hand, is tough in the beginning but gets easier and easier over time.
These questions and tips below tackle cravings, food restriction, food police/guilt, making peace with food, gentle nutrition, and the hunger and fullness scale. If you are new to Intuitive Eating, check out my blog post on how to get started. Stay tuned for more Q&A in the future and comment below with any questions you might have in your own Intuitive Eating journey.
I always feel guilty after eating foods I know aren’t great for me, especially sweets. I eat them when I’m craving them, not because I’m hungry, and then I end up feeling guilty. How can I stop these cravings and stop feeling guilty?
Cravings are a side effect of restriction, so I’d first have you ask yourself, “Am I restricting myself?” It may not be totally conscious, and you may not be depriving yourself through traditional diets, but the threat of future deprivation is implied when you feel guilty or shame about what you’re eating. And this is going to lead to cravings.
Whenever we restrict ourselves, keep foods off limits, or look at certain foods as “good” or “bad”, we end up going overboard or have a hard time saying no whenever we do have access to those foods. Restriction and deprivation breed guilt. This is why one of the main principles of Intuitive Eating is to “make peace with food”.
It sounds like you are still not giving yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want, which is then causing cravings, and then you’re feeling guilty because you’re eating even though you aren’t hungry. If this sounds right, then the important thing for you to work on right now is giving yourself that unconditional permission to eat and reframing those inner critic/food police guilt voices.
A few examples on how to reframe the inner critic:
- “I’m choosing foods that are satisfying as much as possible”
- “It’s ok not to have a vegetable today”
- “I get to choose the nourishment for my body”
- “I am learning to include foods I find satisfying and enjoyable”
- “I hear you, I know you’re concerned, but I’m going to be fine” (to food police voice)
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I’ve been trying intuitive eating for months but I still find that I’m not wanting vegetables – will I ever crave them?
Eating intuitively & listening to our bodies doesn’t mean that we throw nutrition entirely out the window. Yes, nutrition often has to be put on the back burner for a while. Eventually, however, you get to the place where you make peace with food, aren’t judging foods as “good” & “bad”, and give yourself permission to have whatever you want.
There’s this belief that Intuitive Eating means eat whatever you want, anytime you want. But that’s not exactly the case. With Intuitive Eating, you have permission to eat what you want, anytime you want, but that doesn’t mean you always do that. Hunger, fullness, satisfaction, how food makes us feel – those are all important; but Intuitive Eating also means using your brain and life experience. Once you work through the process of getting rid of the diet-y and restrictive voice, you can listen to your brain and make a decision on what to eat that is based on self-care, and one that honors your health and your body’s needs.
So the choice to eat (or not eat) vegetables may be less of a craving for some people and more of a conscious decision that comes from a place of self-care (versus a place of restriction). This is where gentle nutrition comes in. With vegetables, this could mean working on ways to explore new/different types. For example, a client of mine didn’t like veggies. Once she got to a place where she knew she had permission to eat whatever she wanted, she was ready to explore different ways of cooking them and found that there were many vegetables she really enjoyed and made her body feel good.
I’ve noticed that I have been getting hungry every few hours. I’ve been trying to honor the hunger but I’m worried that I’m eating too often. Am I truly recognizing hunger, or I am I just bored?
It takes a long time to fully get back in touch with your hunger. After so many years of dieting and relying on external cues to tell you when to eat, it is going to take a bit of time to fully know what hunger feels like. In the meantime, you’re doing the exact right thing by honoring that hunger feeling and eating something. You need to do this in order for your body to trust you to feed it, and for you to begin to trust your body that it will tell you when it is hungry. It is also a bit of trial and error for awhile as you start to become more in tune with your body’s signals – this is where keeping a journal can be helpful. You’ll start to see patterns around when you feel more hungry. Maybe you had a hard workout yesterday, or your breakfast wasn’t big enough, or maybe you notice you’re hungrier during certain times of the month based on your cycle. And sure, sometimes maybe it is boredom or stress. Try to approach this with a sense of curiosity instead of judgment. You’re exploring and discovering more about your body, which is really cool! You’re on your way to learning how to listen to your own internal signals to best feed yourself, rather than external cues (like dieting or food rules).